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archive for baking

alas, the baguette

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Recipe: sourdough baguettes

After spending the last two months trying different recipes and employing a variety of techniques, I think I’ve finally found the right sourdough baguette recipe! By “right”, I mean it has all of the qualities I seek in a sourdough baguette. I have not traveled the world in search of the finest baguettes, but I do know what I like. My desire to document how to make a sourdough baguette is mostly for my own convenience as my notes are currently scattered between several messy and cryptic pages in my recipe notebook.

So what makes a good baguette in my book? I love the slightly floral and mildly sour notes that come from using sourdough starter as opposed to added yeast. The interior should have an airy and delicate structure without being mostly holes. I want to sink my teeth into bread, not air. It should have a well-browned crust with shine and blisters. That crust ought to crackle and shatter when cut. And my biggest motivation for making my own baguette: the base should not be caked in flour (ahem, Boulder Whole Foods). If someone made the perfect baguette, I would gladly buy it. Now I don’t need to.

Making the baguettes spans 3 days for me. The first day is mere minutes in the evening when you make the levain. The second day is the bulk of the time commitment. The autolyse step (letting the flour(s) absorb the water) can be as short as 30 minutes up to 4 hours. I tend to mix the dough early in the morning and give myself a 4 hour window to work, get a workout, run errands, etc. Then I spend the next 2.5 hours near the dough, but it only requires a minute of my time every 30 minutes to turn the dough (four sets of folds at 90 degree rotations). After the last turn, the dough can rest 30 minutes to an hour. I always choose the longer period of time which may or may not be a good thing. Once shaped, I put my dough in the refrigerator for a 12-24 hour cold proof. This means you need to make space for something like baguettes which require a lot of area, but not much height. I don’t proof at room temperature because I find shaping and handling cold dough to be far easier. The next day, I bake the bread which takes about 35-40 minutes per baguette. Planning when to fit this into your schedule is probably the hardest part.

The unicorn was the baguette. The rainbow unicorn was the épi de blé or sheaf of wheat.


my épi de blé

testing whole wheat percentages



My baguette expedition rambled through a few recipes before I circled back to the dough used for my favorite sourdough bread, which is based on the recipe from Tartine in San Francisco. All the steps are the same up to the shaping, but I decided to swap some whole wheat flour for a little of the bread flour, gram for gram. [Using a kitchen scale rather than cups is going to see you to greater consistency and success when baking breads.] I made and we taste tested 0%, 2.5%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, and 30% whole wheat flour baguettes. They all tasted GREAT. If entertaining, I would make a 0% (all bread flour) or 10% (10% whole wheat flour and 90% bread flour) baguette. The 0% is classic, but the 10% has a subtle nuttiness that I really love without feeling any heavier than the 0% baguette. The baguette does start to taste a little less floral and less sweet at 25% and 30% whole wheat flour.

This sourdough baguette recipe doesn’t use any additional yeast, it relies on the sourdough starter for leavening. If my starter is in the refrigerator, I’ll bring it to room temperature and feed it daily for a couple of days before making the levain on the evening of day 1 (sometimes I call it day 0).


the starter should be fed, happy, and bubbling

weigh out the starter

the levain: starter, bread flour, water

stir together

leave no dry pockets of flour

the levain is bubbly and ready after 8-12 hours



**Jump for more butter**

a good break

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Recipe: braised rhubarb

I was nervous about taking last week off from posting, but felt I could use the break. I think I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Or should. As tempting as it was to skip another week, I’m back at it. Last week was the university’s Spring Break, so we spent it in Crested Butte to squeeze out as many remaining ski days as possible. Neva turned three years old over break, which we celebrated with many of her favorite things like food, orange tennis balls, snow, running, and sleeping in the sun. You can watch her eat her birthday dessert on my Instagram.


happy birthday, little neva!



We received a little powder early in the week on the mountain, migrated to the Nordic trails until they were too worked over by the spring freeze/melt cycle, and then discovered the joys of crust cruising with our skate skis off-trail. It was a good lesson in making the most of every situation. The important thing is to look back on this ski season with gratitude that I was in good enough health to do all of these things in the first place.

such a beautiful sight to behold

getting plastered with snow on the lift

jeremy grabs a fresh line

crust cruising the wide open spaces



Spring in the mountains has been a series of fast moving snow storms alternating with sunshine and blue skies. This pattern can wreak havoc on ski trails as well as running/hiking trails because it’s never all snow or all dirt/rock in spring. More typically you have a combination of dirt, snow, ice, and mud, which is pretty miserable to run and nearly impossible to ski. But I feel so alive as we flirt with the smell of wet forests, spy budding catkins on the aspen trees, and watch sunset later each day.

then it snows and a mama moose and yearling stroll through for a snack



I’ve been waiting over six months to post this recipe for braised (roasted) rhubarb. Living at an elevation of 8500 feet means that we are seasonally out of whack with most of the country (and the world) for much of the year. Rhubarb is popping up all over my Instagram feed, but I know it will be months before my neighbors’ plants even begin to think about producing those brilliantly colored stalks. Those wonderful neighbors gave me some of their rhubarb last September before the first hard freeze. Since I was short on time, I made a super easy spiced rhubarb compote.

rhubarb, honey, orange juice, vanilla bean, star anise, cardamom pods, ginger, salt

slice the rhubarb

scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean



**Jump for more butter**

skepticism

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Recipe: salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies

“Have you tried Alison Roman’s salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookie?”

Ellen and I were discussing shortbread cookies when she asked the question. I actually had it on my list of recipes to try, but I hadn’t tried them yet. She hadn’t tried them either, but she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. And there has been a lot of fuss over these cookies in baking circles. I’m always looking for good shortbread recipes because I find those to be the best cookies to ship. Fast forward a week and Ellen is texting me as she recovers from foot surgery. A friend had made the cookies and dropped some off for her convalescence. “They are gooooood.” Okay, I trust Ellen’s tastes, so I set about making a batch to see what was what.


we took some backcountry skiing, because that’s what we do



The first batch I baked was very frustrating. The weights and volume measurements in the recipe didn’t really jive and had discrepancies by as much as 15%. I went with weights, because that’s far more accurate and easier to troubleshoot. The cookies spread too much and too quickly once they went into the oven, which could very well be my altitude (8500 feet above sea level). While the texture and flavor were good, the appearance was unacceptable (for my standards). Even baking the second half of that batch at a lower temperature and for longer resulted in more spreading than I was willing to tolerate, although slightly less. Research on the internet revealed that the New York Times version used more flour. I figured it was worth another shot.

vanilla, butter, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, turbinado sugar, flake sea salt, chunk chocolate

beat together cold butter, sugars, and vanilla

mix in flour until just combined

add the chocolate



**Jump for more butter**